Simon Reed

Shocking turn of events for Serena

Simon Reed

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The news this week, surgery for a pulmonary embolism, has been another extraordinary chapter in the Serena Williams story.

I'd never heard of this sort of thing before in an top athlete but so much of her life you've never heard of before. If they ever make film of her life, it'll be amazing.

I feel for her, I really do. It seems that its all on the mend now and it will be simply a matter of time.

When I first heard about what's happened this week, I wondered if that was the end of her tennis career. And now she's talking about coming back for the French Open. Well it's typical Serena, she's overcome so many obstacles in her lifetime, don't rule her out.

But I must say I raised my eyebrows when I saw that reaction.

Only the medics really know but even if this hadn't happened, with the amount of time she's been off court, any normal tennis player would have taken a long time to get back to their best.

Justine Henin for example, before her retirement announcement, was talking about it being this summer before she'd be back to her best after that elbow injury. That's eight or nine months that she was giving herself before expecting to get back to full form.

Of course, Serena's not normal.

We've seen her, many times in her career, take long breaks and then come back, even sometimes when she's been carrying a few extra kilos.

There was one Australian Open a few years back, in 2007, when during the fortnight she seemed to lose eight or nine kilos, it was quite extraordinary. She had not played for months, looked overweight and everyone went "oh, this isn't going to last long". But she got better and better as the tournament progressed and went on to win it.

But this has been a longer lay-off than any of the others so it's going to be tough; she's that much older and the standard of women's is showing signs of being on the rise again after going through the doldrums in the last three or four years.

But obviously the key thing, is for Serena to get back to full health and that there aren't any complications or implications from this latest setback. And then it really is just a matter of time.

The problem is that because she's had a foot injury, she hasn't been able to put in the mileage and she hasn't been able to hit many tennis balls - even if she has been looking after herself.

Obviously she's extraordinarily physically strong but will she have the stamina for matches? It's going to take time. She is a law unto herself and, who knows, we could well be sitting here in September talking about how she won the French Open (very unlikely) or Wimbledon (slightly more likely).

I try not to be surprised by Serena any more but I think this time I would be if she can come back to win one of the summer Grand Slams.

I don't think she realised at the time how badly she had injured herself. It looks like the first operation didn't go as well as it should have done and she had to go back in again. After the wrist, the foot is the next key part for a tennis player, and she's got to make sure it's right.

The quicker she comes back in many ways, the better. Obviously she doesn't want to rush it and come back too quick but if she has many months out, you start to wonder.

You have to dispel any normal valuation on her ambitions, Roger Federer is another one. Even more so Federer in fact. He seems such a rational human being and yet he has such a ferocity and intensity that still burns.

Serena has always shown such unbelievable commitment to win. There's obviously still something still inside her that makes her still want to win; she is not the type to be defeated by illness or injury. She'll want to go out on her own terms.

Federer is a lot closer to an amazing record than Serena but maybe she doesn't see it that way and that fires her ambition. If she had picked up another two or three Grand Slams this year, which all things considered she could have, it would have been possible. Then she'll be heading towards records. But can she still do it, at the age she is and with this lay-off behind her?

I'll keep saying it, and it's a bit of a cliché, but nothing should surprise us any more about Serena.

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